On Thursday, December 19th, North Brooklyn residents packed 211 Ainslie Street to make it clear to its new landlord that the senior and daycare facilities operating out of the buildings for the past 40 years are not going anywhere.
The building was sold just before Thanksgiving under what activists are calling suspicious conditions – a coalition of local advocates had offered $6 million to buy the building. That offer was bypassed in favor of a $4.5 million offer. The new landlord, Victor Einhorn, immediately notified Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Daycare they would have to pay a drastically increased rent or vacate their decades-long home. When they refused, he threatened to padlock the building, a threat from which he back pedaled this week, following a strong outcry from the community.
Local advocates believe he wants to force out the programs to build luxury condos on the site, which is also home to a food pantry and Community Board 1 meetings. “We’re perfectly willing to give him a fair rent, but that’s not really what he wants,” said Phil Caponegro, Chair of the Conselyea Street Block Association, the community non-profit body that operates the facility.
Around 200 people attended Thursday’s rally waving signs reading “We are not squatters,” in response to Einhorns reportedly referring to the programs as “squatters” and “trespassers.”
“This building has a unique history,” said Jan Peterson, a founder of the center in the early 1970s. “It wasn’t built to enrich a developer. It was built by the community, for the community, and we’re going to fight for as long as it takes to keep it that way.”
Advocates for the senior and daycare centers got a boost from local elected officials at the rally, including Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Assemblywoman-elect Maritza Davila and Councilmember-elect Antonio Reynoso.
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